Telegraphing Revolt: Protest Diffusion in the 1919 Egyptian Revolution
Presentation will be in English
It is fashionable to emphasize how the internet has enabled the rapid diffusion of protest. This paper examines to what extent telegraph, telephone, postal, railway, and road networks shaped protest diffusion in the twentieth century. The argument is illustrated with the case of Egypt during the 1919 Revolution, when mass protest broke out across the country in just a few days. Pairing event data from Arabic-language newspapers and colonial security reports with geo-referenced maps, the paper demonstrates how Egypt’s early communications infrastructure facilitated the rapid spread of protest in a semi-agrarian context characterized by political disorganization. Protest also spread faster to districts with more students. The unlikely decision to place Egypt’s first major rail terminus at Kafr al-Zayat is exploited to account for local variation in connectivity. The findings point to the enduring role of communications infrastructure in processes of revolutionary mobilization.
Neil Ketchley is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Oslo. His first book Egypt in a Time of Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2017) won the Charles Tilly Distinguished Contribution to Scholarship book award from the American Sociological Association. His research on protest and activism in Egypt has appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, and Political Research Quarterly. Neil is currently writing a book about the 1919 Egyptian Revolution.